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Philip Francis British Columbia Postcard Collection

In 2014, Vancouver postcard collector Philip Francis generously donated to the SFU Library an historically significant collection of approximately 13,000 postcards that visually and vividly capture a wide array of places, people, events and activities, industries, geographic and architectural landmarks, modes of transportation and clothing – from all corners of British Columbia.


The majority of the postcards are from the "golden age" of postcards, dating from 1900 to 1920. In addition to lithographic postcards, many are "real photo" postcards, published both in black and white and hand tinted. The collection features a large number of postcards published by renowned Vancouver photographer Philip Timms over a period of many decades. Other well-known photographers include Leonard Frank and J. Howard Chapman.

Publishers include Vancouver’s Thomson Stationary Co. and Gowen Sutton Co., and Warwick Brothers & Rutter (Toronto), the first Canadian company to produce colour postcards.

Documentary and research value

Increasingly, postcards are being recognized as important primary resources for historians and researchers in many other fields. They often provide a visual record of long vanished landscapes, buildings, and even entire towns and communities that is simply not available elsewhere.

Due to its comprehensive nature and the care with which Francis selected its individual pieces, this collection offers opportunity for researchers in a multitude of subject areas, including:

  • British Columbia and local community history
  • Architecture
  • Geography
  • Arts and culture
  • Social, labour and economic history
  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • Fashion
  • Photography

Many postcards contain handwritten personal correspondence offering an insight into the social culture, activities and lifestyle of the time. Some messages describe particular events, travel experiences, places and industries, while others simply record the activities, happenings and sentiments of everyday life.

Digital collection

Nearly 6,000 postcards from this collection have now been digitized and made available online with the assistance of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre's "B.C. History Digitization Program". Educational and not-for-profit use of the images is encouraged – please see the collection page for more details.